“Customers are looking for a uniform group of healthy calves, showing the potential of the animal they will grow into,” says Russell. “The animals only have a couple of minutes in the ring to attract a buyer and I need them to look their absolute best at this point. Buyers will come to market with a lorry and are looking to buy a number of animals. I want to provide a group of very similar size and condition that they can purchase in one lot.”
It’s with this in mind that Russell has developed both breeding and feeding management at Red House Farm. He uses four bulls, with different traits, across the cows in order to maintain uniformity of calves. A Limousin is used on heifers and a selection of Charolais bulls are used on older cattle, and all bulls are purchased on EBV traits.
When it comes to feeding, Russell is again keen to help calves express their natural potential; “When the calves are about nine to 10 months old they hit a stage where they just look right. You can see the well rounded potential in the animal and it is at this stage that I want to present my cattle to customers. Any earlier or later and cattle can be going through a growth stage and not look so attractive.”
After talking to Mike Evans, from Bibby’s, Russell has included Actisaf® yeast probiotic in the calves’ creep feed. Calves are weaned at eight to nine months old and are creep fed ad-lib on a bespoke calf rearing blend from August onwards, to help them get used to their new diet before housing. They are housed in October or November and in the winter calves have their own creep feeding area and receive 4kg/head.
“Within six weeks of starting the Actisaf® yeast probiotic I noticed a bloom to the cattle,” says Russell. “I think rumen health is crucial to the calves. If cattle aren’t right on the on the inside they don’t look right on the outside. The calves need to make the best use of the feed they eat, the Actisaf® aids digestion so that the feed isn’t just passing through the gut.”
Mike Evans from Bibby comments; “Actisaf® yeast probiotic helps rumen function in a number of ways. It stabilises rumen pH, ensuring maximum feed utilisation and efficient digestion. It also helps to manage and reduce the negative effect of transition between diets, such as when calves are brought indoors and off grass. It looks after those bugs in the rumen that do all the hard work in the gut.”
The results speak for themselves in Russells’ high quality cattle, with buyers returning time and again to buy. Steers were sold at market at an average weight of about 410 kg, at 9-10 months of age and made in the region on £950 – £1050. Heifers were sold at a weight of approximately 400 kg and averaged £870 in 2016.
“The right genetics and the right feed is the best way to realise that potential and provide quality across the group. I’m always trying to provide the customer with what they are after and a group of attractive, uniform, well grown calves, has great potential to the buyer,” Russell concludes.